Persist and Resist

Epictetus was born a slave in 50 A.D. in Phrygia, lived in Rome until his banishment, and eventually obtained freedom and taught philosophy until he died. He lived by the two words, “persist and resist.”

What makes Jiu-Jitsu or grappling arts so intriguing to most people?

Competitors feed on the challenges, the adrenaline, and the rush of the experience.

But what about that part of the jiu-jitsu population that doesn’t interest themselves in showcasing?

Many reasons accompany these people as they first step foot in a gym. The interest in learning something new, the goal of losing weight, finding an activity for the whole family to practice together, or to forget about their demons for at least an hour every day.

Today I’d like to touch on that last reason.

Depression is classified as a mood disorder. It may be described as feelings of sadness, loss, or anger that interfere with a person’s everyday activities. It is also fairly common. Depression in the United States affects over 18 million adults (1 in 10) in any given year and is the primary reason why someone dies of suicide about every 12 minutes. – over 41,000 people a year.

So how does jiu-jitsu play an important role here?

Mindfulness is a powerful modern concept of psychology borrowed from Eastern meditation used on patients with depression. This practice consists of encouraging people to focus on the here and now, setting aside worries over past or future, and bringing their attention to the present moment. In mindfulness exercises, patients are taught to attend to their surroundings, their sensations, and their immediate experiences.

Yes, you got it right. This same level of immediate, focused alertness that is required while practicing BJJ.

In a controlled setting, every round is a struggle for survival. The nature of survival triggers other intense psychological and physiological changes, making our brains and bodies react, preparing us to either flee or fight, and also to be very alert. Norepinephrine, adrenaline, and cortisol flood our bodies and synapses, decreasing our reaction times, increasing our heart rate and respiration, and enhancing our focus and awareness. In such situations, our brain recognizes a survival situation, and forces us to focus with intensity on our immediate experiences.

And quite honestly, when you have a two-hundred-pound opponent sitting on top of you and trying to choke you into unconsciousness, it is psychologically impossible to devote mental resources to worrying about the rent, school, or work.

There are many other factors that come into play as to why jiu-jitsu and other grappling or combat sports help battle depression. The camaraderie and constant support of a group of people who enjoy the same practice you do, can play a huge part. The constant progression, no matter how small, can teach a person battling depression that little by little, the shittiest situations can get better, if you persist and resist.

Every day we are fighting, and everyone is fighting a battle the rest of the world doesn’t know about.

Fighting to make a living, fighting to have the courage to get through another day, fighting to be heard, fighting the clock, fighting on the mats. Right now even, with the current situation the world is in, we are all fighting for our health and livelihoods. We all have good days and bad days; this is how life is for everybody. What matters is not what is being done on the sunny days, but’s what is being done on the days where darkness wants to take over.

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